Jousting. Caber toss. Hammer throw. Cynthia Morrison has done it all. Her newest thing is escapology.

Straitjacket sales are rare, says the shop's owner, Richard Adler, also known as The Amazing Mr. A. At about $200 each, he sells one, maybe two, per year. They have to be special-ordered from a Seattle company and are all but obsolete these days. "They don't even use them in mental hospitals anymore," Adler laughs. Made of white cotton canvas and cinched by untanned leather straps, the straitjacket is as unforgiving as a Chinese finger trap. "The more you struggle," he warns, "the tighter it gets."

Indeed, in a straitjacket escape, as in life itself, sheer effort does not always yield success: "With escape, I've put the least amount of work into it and gotten the greatest response," Morrison observes. "It's more of what people are familiar with."

In the two years since that magical day at the shop, Cindini has studied books and built a repertoire of escapes. At the moment, though, her gigs are scattered and infrequent. She's performed five times, twice at semipro wrestling tournaments held at the West Palm Beach strip mall where Mr. A's Magic Shop is located. The best of the other three was in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she did a challenging rope escape.

Cindini performs to her own unchained melody
Joshua Prezant
Cindini performs to her own unchained melody

Blindfolded and handcuffed, she makes her way out of a body bag. Chained and handcuffed, she frees herself from a locked box. Her signature stunt is getting out of a straitjacket while suspended upside down from a crane.

Cindini plots her performances carefully, right down to the music and costumes. She's even found a voice recording of her hero, the legendary escapologist Harry Houdini, and hopes to incorporate it into a show.

Nightclubs, like the ones on Clematis Street, would be a particularly appropriate venue for her act, she believes, because it owes more to entertainment than athleticism. Still, she insists there is no illusion, but she won't reveal how, exactly, these things are done. "It's against my oath," she says, referring to the vow she took to become a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

And though escapology is related to magic, Morrison is quick to make a distinction. "Illusion is "Alakazam! Presto-change-o!' I only do escape. I don't do illusion."

She doesn't do hyperbole either, which is why the name Amazing Cindini is just for gigs. Her magic-shop friends gave it to her, and she winces when people mistakenly refer to her as the Great Cindini. It sounds too much like the Great Houdini, a comparison she doesn't feel is fair. "I don't want to be a fantasy character," she insists. "I want to be myself."

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